From dental workforce shortages to the ongoing financial recovery from COVID-19, dentistry has faced plenty of practice management challenges in 2022. As the clock ticks closer to the new year, dentistry thought leaders shared their tips for managing practices in 2023.
Spending and inflation
Dr. Roger P. Levin, CEO of Levin Group, urged clinicians to focus on inflation, noting it will have some permanent effect on increased practice expenses. Therefore, dentists should increase their fees for services in 2023 and every year and submit new fee schedules to insurance companies to increase their profile and reimbursements.
"Sometimes, dentists feel that they cannot raise fees in a more challenging economic time, but remember that patients generally do not know fees other than the most obvious routine ones like dental hygiene," Levin said. "A 5% fee increase will not prevent a patient from accepting treatment. If you are concerned about raising fees, raise your level of customer service at the same time."
Dr. Teresa Yang, the author of Nothing but the Tooth: An Insider's Guide to Dental Health, also encouraged dentists to evaluate their fees.
"Regardless of whether you choose to increase them, this should be done on a regular basis," she said.
Additionally, Yang advised that dentists should reduce their overhead. Consider partnering with other dentists to reduce fixed costs and to ensure full use of offices, review and possibly renegotiate the practice lease, and review the interest payments on debts for possible consolidation or reduction, she said.
Yang added, "A financial assessment isn't just for the self-employed; it's for everyone. If you're an employee, do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Take a read of current payscales and where you stack up in that range. A renegotiation with your employer may be indicated."
Though staffing expenses have risen on average by about 10% in the U.S. and will not be reversed, Levin said the best way to justify the increase is to train the team to be as efficient as possible.
"One practice that improved the speed of dental assistants was able to save 10 minutes per hour per doctor of patient time," Levin explained. "This resulted in an increase of two extra months per year per doctor of doctor production time. Higher efficiency is the result of upgrading or replacing the practice systems. This can be a big win for any practice in the new year."Reflect and react
In dentistry, clinicians often end up doing the same thing for decades, and that can affect job satisfaction, Yang said. That's why dentists should ask themselves if they are performing the type of dentistry they anticipated doing when they graduated from dental school. If not, dentists need to figure out what they would rather do and take the necessary steps to achieve it.
"For example, if you've wanted to incorporate Invisalign into your practice, begin by taking the necessary training," she explained.
Continuing education (CE) is another way to increase job satisfaction, Yang said.
"In-person CE allows you to interact with colleagues, discuss cases, and learn something fresh," she said. "Virtual CEs or individual reading also provide valuable new information."
Plan and be patient
Estela Vargas, CRDH, the founder and CEO of Remote Sourcing, said that preparation is key to surviving the start of a new year. For example, treatment plans and practice management software need to be updated for the upcoming 2023 code changes, including new and deleted codes and revisions.
"This action avoids claims being automatically rejected for using outdated codes or billing an existing code incorrectly because descriptors and nomenclature have changed," Vargas said.
Also, clinicians should give insurance coordinators uninterrupted time to update all insurance plans that have reset in the new year.
"Many plans change the benefit structure even if the policy or group number remains the same," she said. "Be patient with your insurance team, as January is especially stressful."